The following excerpt was published July 4 on Zenit.com
Here is the text of a sermon given today by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia at a Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., to close the Fortnight of Freedom. Today, Independence Day, brought a conclusion to the fortnight, which the US bishops had called as an opportunity for prayer and catechesis on the importance of religious freedom.
* * *
Philadelphia is the place where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were written. For more than two centuries, these documents have inspired people around the globe. So as we begin our reflection on today’s readings, I have the privilege of greeting everyone here today — and every person watching or listening from a distance — in the name of the Church of my home, the Church of Philadelphia, the cradle of our country’s liberty and the city of our nation’s founding. May God bless and guide all of us as we settle our hearts on the Word of God.
Paul Claudel, the French poet and diplomat of the last century, once described the Christian as “a man who knows what he is doing and where he is going in a world that no longer knows the difference between good and evil, yes and no. He is like a god standing out in a crowd of invalids. He alone has liberty in a world of slaves.”
Like most of the great writers of his time, Claudel was a mix of gold and clay, flaws and genius. He had a deep and brilliant Catholic faith, and when he wrote that a man “who no longer believes in God, no longer believes in anything,” he was simply reporting what he saw all around him. He spoke from a lifetime that witnessed two world wars and the rise of atheist ideologies that murdered tens of millions of innocent people using the vocabulary of science. He knew exactly where forgetting God can lead.
We Americans live in a different country, on a different continent, in a different century. And yet, in speaking of liberty, Claudel leads us to the reason we come together in worship this afternoon.
Most of us know today’s passage from the Gospel of St Matthew. What we should, or should not, render unto Caesar shapes much of our daily discourse as citizens. But I want to focus on the other and more important point Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading: the things we should render unto God.
When the Pharisees and Herodians try to trap Jesus, he responds by asking for a coin. Examining it he says, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” When his enemies say “Caesar’s,” he tells them to render it to Caesar. In other words, that which bears the image of Caesar belongs to Caesar.
The key word in Christ’s answer is “image,” or in the Greek, eikon. Our modern meaning of “image” is weaker than the original Greek meaning. We tend to think of an image as something symbolic, like a painting or sketch. The Greek understanding includes that sense but goes further. In the New Testament, the “image” of something shares in the nature of the thing itself.
This has consequences for our own lives because we’re made in the image of God. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the same word, eikon, is used in Genesis when describing the creation. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” says God (Gen 1:26). The implication is clear. To be made in the image of God is more than a pious slogan. It’s a statement of fact. Every one of us shares — in a limited but real way — in the nature of God himself. When we follow Jesus Christ, we grow in conformity to that image.
Once we understand this, the impact of Christ’s response to his enemies becomes clear. Jesus isn’t being clever. He’s not offering a political commentary. He’s making a claim on every human being. He’s saying, “render unto Caesar those things that bear Caesar’s image, but more importantly, render unto God that which bears God’s image” — in other words, you and me. All of us.
And that raises some unsettling questions: What do you and I, and all of us, really render to God in our personal lives? If we claim to be disciples, then what does that actually mean in the way we speak and act?
Thinking about the relationship of Caesar and God, religious faith and secular authority, is important. It helps us sort through our different duties as Christians and citizens. But on a deeper level, Caesar is a creature of this world, and Christ’s message is uncompromising: We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves. Obviously we’re in the world. That means we have obligations of charity and justice to the people with whom we share it. Patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out.
But God made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here. The point of today’s Gospel passage is not how we might calculate a fair division of goods between Caesar and God. In reality, it all belongs to God and nothing – at least nothing permanent and important – belongs to Caesar. Why? Because just as the coin bears the stamp of Caesar’s image, we bear the stamp of God’s image in baptism. We belong to God, and only to God….
For complete speech, click here.
I like Bishop Chaput’s homily. I’m puzzled about the readings he refers to. In my parish, Wed July 4’s Gospel reading was the story of the demons whom Jesus drove from two men, the demons then tormenting a herd of swine. Did my pastor somehow read the wrong readings, or did the Bishop change the lectionary to match the secular holiday?
“…did the Bishop change the lectionary to match the secular holiday?” well, FRANCIS, sometimes the celebrants has options to choose from in terms of the mass prayers AND the readings — thanksgiving day and july 4 are examples, as well as many saint days. many people are not aware of this and get confused.
love this homily! we are made in the image and likeness of GOD, all of us, saints and sinners alike, and should strive to give ourselves to GOD in gratitude. somethings we have to endure because we live on this planet (like taxes, pollution, sin, attacks against our faith), but our lives here are not the end all – heaven is! so, if we must pay taxes, must see our young people shipped off to wars that are nuts, must see people dying of hunger and AIDS in africa, we should never lose hope.
“We should give Caesar nothing of ourselves” is Archbishop Chaput’s best remark. The tone of his homily, however, still smacks of the bishops’ same old discredited policy of accommodation vis á vis the government. Do the bishops expect to win the religious exemption argument in court? Will it be business as usual after that, with communion as usual for every pro-abort, pro-gay pseudo marriage “Catholic” politician? When will our bishops stop placating and start fighting?
The liturgical calendars are different for the two Latin forms. The EF yesterday was the one about Caesar and the coin and God and who is who and what is what.
JLS, those last few words sound a lot like DR. SEUSS – are you guys related? he was pretty crusty and feisty, too.
Having read Dr. Seuss a “million” times to my own children and to others. I could enjoy that last piece of humor, too. I once knew the whole “Fox in Sox” book by memory. Sad to say Dr. Seuss believed in abortion from what I have read. I could never understand why he would want to lose some of his own customers. I find that sad indeed.
The problems we are facing today are at least partially if not almost entirely due to the bishops cowardice in enforcing Canon 915. Actions speak louder than words. When the bishops own up to this dismal failure, we may have a chance to get rid of the tyrants of both Parties.
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
God bless Archbishop Chaput. I appreciate this wonderful message today!
In fairness to the Archbishop, he does, at the very end of his homily, call upon Catholics to “speak out” and bear witness by their words and deeds. Yet, there is no apparent indignation that Mr. Obama would even dare to suggest replacing freedom of religion with the lesser freedom of worship, or that Caesar has now made it a crime for Catholics to give to God what belongs to God, which, presumably, was the very reason for the Fortnight for Freedom. As to Canon 915, it is doubtful that Archbishop Chaput has ever enforced it: https://www.canon915.org/view_person.php?id=39
Sad to say, it is not doubtful, it is a FACT that he has never enforced it even though he once promised a large gathering of International and National pro-life leaders, including myself, that he would excommunicate any politician under his shepherding who ever voted for abortion like that, and he snapped his fingers to emphasize his statement. Pray for him, he has since compromised his own promise to us and God.
God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
Kenneth M. Fisher
may GOD have mercy on his poor, compromised soul. (okay, guys: who am i quoting here?)
Is it me? Is this the best ‘fight for religious freedom’ sermon we’ve got? The archbishop and other USCCB members do NOTHING and want us in the pews to speak out. That’s the plan? During the fortnight for freedom, the only mention of it in this diocese (Tucson) was on EWTN. We attended mass at 3 different parishes with NO mention of it at all in print or from the pulpit. (But highlights of local sporting events were covered.) If ‘Us In The Pews’ don’t get it done by voting out as many of the Pro-Abort candidates we can, this sermon tells me, it’s not gonna be a priority in the USCCB. God Bless Us All.
FTP, Did you read Chaput’s book ‘Render Under Caesar’? I was expecting to read a barn burner but it was mostly as boring as this ‘religious freedom’ sermon. The most obvious thing that came out in his book was his deep roots in the democrat party. The last chapter had a few good paragraphs containing some stronger statements about the struggles we face against those who advance evil. If you see his book read the last chapter then pitch it.
max, now why are you being sexist and asking only the guys to answer your riddle?